The Intensa Spanish Language Schools are a family-run business in operation since 1980. When we started out we had plenty of experience with language learning, however starting up the first school was a risk (and an adventure!).
Now more than 30 years later, Intensa has five Spanish language schools offering a wide variety of lesson choices, and a combined staff of 145 teachers and administrators.
Letter from the President, Robert Patterson Sr.
I started Intensa Spanish language schools in 1980 in response to a perceived need. I had been closely involved with an institute educating bilingual secretaries in Costa Rica. Its three-year program, one of the best in the country, was not very effective in meeting the women’s urgent need to speak and understand spoken English. What I saw being played out at that institute was a re-run of my own past experiences with language learning. I had studied Italian three years in high school; I had an MA in Classical Languages from Loyola University in Chicago, specifically in Latin and Greek but with some French thrown in for good measure. At the end I could read those languages pretty well but conversing was out of the question.
Shortly after graduation, I was offered a three-year job in Peru teaching math and history and running sports programs. Problem: I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, so I took a four-month crash program at a language institute in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It was strictly oral, let’s say ‘conversational’. Every morning for four hours, my three classmates and I produced spoken Spanish based on a dozen or so blue, pictureless, type-written mimeographed sheets.
After class, I spent as much time as I could practicing with any Puerto Rican who had the patience. I lived in the freshman dorm, ate in the university cafeteria, visited with the local firemen, and in the evening had a rum and coke with Puerto Rican friends.
In Peru finally, and after a fifth month to prepare my courses, I started teaching primary and secondary students from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and occasionally adults at night. Apart from a bout of high blood pressure, I survived. By that time, however, I was also convinced that intensive oral practice carried out over a number of months was a highly effective way to learn to speak a language as well as to read and write it.
After Peru, and in great part due to my Peruvian experience and my ability to speak Spanish, I landed two jobs in international sales and marketing that took me repeatedly to Southern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America. In 1976, I moved from Chicago to Costa Rica with my Costa Rican wife and our four children.
As of this writing, I have been involved in language learning for over 40 years. In March of 2010, my staff and I celebrated 30 years of successfully helping people speak the Spanish and English languages.